But against the New York Giants on Sunday night, Kaepernick took a deep breath, then another, and went to work.
Showing an ability to make quick reads not seen in a while and taking advantage of underneath routes to regain his confidence against a battered and weakened defense that lost middle linebacker Jon Beason to a concussion in the first quarter, Kaepernick started taking deep shots and engineered a seven-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard Carlos Hyde plunge into the end zone with 1 minute, 50 seconds to play to give the 49ers a four-point lead.
Thing was, the Giants still had a shot and three timeouts of their own as Eli Manning’s 12-yard TD pass to Larry Donnell did the deed and the 49ers dropped their fourth straight game to fall to 1-4 with the 30-27 defeat.
Kaepernick, who finished 23-for-35 for 262 yards and two touchdowns, may have quieted his critics for the time-being. He had a 107.1 QBR.
What were they thinking? Why did the Niners take so long to start throwing the ball downfield? Sure, they tried to establish the run game, but it was going nowhere and the 49ers were close to being blown out in the first half. The defense made plays and limited the Giants to field goals.
One reason to get excited: Andrew Tiller, signed from the practice squad on Saturday with the release of cornerback Shareece Wright, replaced starting right guard Jordan Devey early and showed skill in picking up stunts for the Niners’ passing game.
One reason to panic: Well, if Tiller is good enough to play and look decent, why was he on the practice squad to begin with?
Fantasy watch: Carlos Hyde got the ground game going with 23 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown.
Ouch: Reggie Bush, on his third touch since returning from a strained left calf on his second carry as a 49ers player in the season opener, aggravated the injury on his lone carry of the game, a one-yard loss.
A first: The 49ers won the coin toss, decided to receive the opening kickoff and promptly drove down the field, going 55 yards in eight plays. Phil Dawson’s 43-yard field goal gave the Niners a 3-0 lead, and it was the first time they had scored in the first quarter this season.
Another first, so to speak? When Kaepernick hit Garrett Celek for a fourth-quarter touchdown, it was the first TD by a Niners tight end since the season opener in 2014.